Gunter Senft

Publications

Displaying 1 - 15 of 15
  • Gerrits, F., Senft, G., & Wisse, D. (2018). Bomiyoyeva and bomduvadoya: Two rare structures on the Trobriand Islands exclusively reserved for Tabalu chiefs. Anthropos, 113, 93-113. doi:10.5771/0257-9774-2018-1-93.

    Abstract

    This article presents information about two so far undescribed buildings made by the Trobriand Islanders, the bomiyoyeva and the bomduvadova. These structures are connected to the highest-ranking chiefs living in Labai and Omarakana on Kiriwina Island. They highlight the power and eminence of these chiefs. After a brief report on the history of this project, the structure of the two houses, their function, and their use is described and information on their construction and their mythical background is provided. Finally, everyday as well as ritual, social, and political functions of both buildings are discussed. [Melanesia, Trobriand Islands, Tabalu chiefs, yams houses, bomiyoyeva, bomduvadova, authoritative capacities]

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  • Majid, A., Roberts, S. G., Cilissen, L., Emmorey, K., Nicodemus, B., O'Grady, L., Woll, B., LeLan, B., De Sousa, H., Cansler, B. L., Shayan, S., De Vos, C., Senft, G., Enfield, N. J., Razak, R. A., Fedden, S., Tufvesson, S., Dingemanse, M., Ozturk, O., Brown, P. and 6 moreMajid, A., Roberts, S. G., Cilissen, L., Emmorey, K., Nicodemus, B., O'Grady, L., Woll, B., LeLan, B., De Sousa, H., Cansler, B. L., Shayan, S., De Vos, C., Senft, G., Enfield, N. J., Razak, R. A., Fedden, S., Tufvesson, S., Dingemanse, M., Ozturk, O., Brown, P., Hill, C., Le Guen, O., Hirtzel, V., Van Gijn, R., Sicoli, M. A., & Levinson, S. C. (2018). Differential coding of perception in the world’s languages. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115(45), 11369-11376. doi:10.1073/pnas.1720419115.

    Abstract

    Is there a universal hierarchy of the senses, such that some senses (e.g., vision) are more accessible to consciousness and linguistic description than others (e.g., smell)? The long-standing presumption in Western thought has been that vision and audition are more objective than the other senses, serving as the basis of knowledge and understanding, whereas touch, taste, and smell are crude and of little value. This predicts that humans ought to be better at communicating about sight and hearing than the other senses, and decades of work based on English and related languages certainly suggests this is true. However, how well does this reflect the diversity of languages and communities worldwide? To test whether there is a universal hierarchy of the senses, stimuli from the five basic senses were used to elicit descriptions in 20 diverse languages, including 3 unrelated sign languages. We found that languages differ fundamentally in which sensory domains they linguistically code systematically, and how they do so. The tendency for better coding in some domains can be explained in part by cultural preoccupations. Although languages seem free to elaborate specific sensory domains, some general tendencies emerge: for example, with some exceptions, smell is poorly coded. The surprise is that, despite the gradual phylogenetic accumulation of the senses, and the imbalances in the neural tissue dedicated to them, no single hierarchy of the senses imposes itself upon language.
  • Senft, B., & Senft, G. (2018). Growing up on the Trobriand Islands in Papua New Guinea - Childhood and educational ideologies in Tauwema. Amsterdam: Benjamins. doi:10.1075/clu.21.

    Abstract

    This volume deals with the children’s socialization on the Trobriands. After a survey of ethnographic studies on childhood, the book zooms in on indigenous ideas of conception and birth-giving, the children’s early development, their integration into playgroups, their games and their education within their `own little community’ until they reach the age of seven years. During this time children enjoy much autonomy and independence. Attempts of parental education are confined to a minimum. However, parents use subtle means to raise their children. Educational ideologies are manifest in narratives and in speeches addressed to children. They provide guidelines for their integration into the Trobrianders’ “balanced society” which is characterized by cooperation and competition. It does not allow individual accumulation of wealth – surplus property gained has to be redistributed – but it values the fame acquired by individuals in competitive rituals. Fame is not regarded as threatening the balance of their society.
  • Senft, G. (2018). Pragmatics and anthropology - The Trobriand Islanders' Ways of Speaking. In C. Ilie, & N. Norrick (Eds.), Pragmatics and its Interfaces (pp. 185-211). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

    Abstract

    Bronislaw Malinowski – based on his experience during his field research on the Trobriand Islands – pointed out that language is first and foremost a tool for creating social bonds. It is a mode of behavior and the meaning of an utterance is constituted by its pragmatic function. Malinowski’s ideas finally led to the formation of the subdiscipline “anthropological linguistics”. This paper presents three observations of the Trobrianders’ attitude to their language Kilivila and their language use in social interactions. They illustrate that whoever wants to successfully research the role of language, culture and cognition in social interaction must be on ‘common ground’ with the researched community.
  • Senft, G. (2018). Theory meets Practice - H. Paul Grice's Maxims of Quality and Manner and the Trobriand Islanders' Language Use. In A. Capone, M. Carapezza, & F. Lo Piparo (Eds.), Further Advances in Pragmatics and Philosophy Part 1: From Theory to Practice (pp. 203-220). Cham: Springer.

    Abstract

    As I have already pointed out elsewhere (Senft 2008; 2010; 2014), the Gricean conversational maxims of Quality – “Try to make your contribution one that is true” – and Manner “Be perspicuous”, specifically “Avoid obscurity of expression” and “Avoid ambiguity” (Grice 1967; 1975; 1978) – are not observed by the Trobriand Islanders of Papua New Guinea, neither in forms of their ritualized communication nor in forms and ways of everyday conversation and other ordinary verbal interactions. The speakers of the Austronesian language Kilivila metalinguistically differentiate eight specific non-diatopical registers which I have called “situational-intentional” varieties. One of these varieties is called “biga sopa”. This label can be glossed as “joking or lying speech, indirect speech, speech which is not vouched for”. The biga sopa constitutes the default register of Trobriand discourse and conversation. This contribution to the workshop on philosophy and pragmatics presents the Trobriand Islanders’ indigenous typology of non-diatopical registers, especially elaborating on the concept of sopa, describing its features, discussing its functions and illustrating its use within Trobriand society. It will be shown that the Gricean maxims of quality and manner are irrelevant for and thus not observed by the speakers of Kilivila. On the basis of the presented findings the Gricean maxims and especially Grice’s claim that his theory of conversational implicature is “universal in application” is critically discussed from a general anthropological-linguistic point of view.
  • Le Guen, O., Senft, G., & Sicoli, M. A. (2008). Language of perception: Views from anthropology. In A. Majid (Ed.), Field Manual Volume 11 (pp. 29-36). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. doi:10.17617/2.446079.

    Abstract

    To understand the underlying principles of categorisation and classification of sensory input semantic analyses must be based on both language and culture. The senses are not only physiological phenomena, but they are also linguistic, cultural, and social. The goal of this task is to explore and describe sociocultural patterns relating language of perception, ideologies of perception, and perceptual practice in our speech communities.
  • Senft, G. (2008). [Review of the book Expeditionen in die Südsee: Begleitbuch zur Ausstellung und Geschichte der Südsee Sammlung des Ethnologischen Museums ed. by Markus Schindlbeck]. Paideuma, 54, 317-320.
  • Senft, G. (2008). Event conceptualization and event report in serial verb constructions in Kilivila: Towards a new approach to research and old phenomenon. In G. Senft (Ed.), Serial verb constructions in Austronesian and Papuan languages (pp. 203-230). Canberra: Pacific Linguistics Publishers.
  • Senft, G. (2008). Introduction. In G. Senft (Ed.), Serial verb constructions in Austronesian and Papuan languages (pp. 1-15). Canberra: Pacific Linguistics Publishers.
  • Senft, G. (2008). Landscape terms and place names in the Trobriand Islands - The Kaile'una subset. Language Sciences, 30(2/3), 340-361. doi:10.1016/j.langsci.2006.12.001.

    Abstract

    After a brief introduction to the topic the paper first gives an overview of Kilivila landscape terms and then presents the inventory of names for villages, wells, island points, reef-channels and gardens on Kaile’una Island, one of the Trobriand Islands in the Milne Bay Province of Papua New Guinea. The data on the meaning of the place names presented were gathered in 2004 with six male consultants (between the age of 36 and 64 years) living in the village Tauwema on Kaile’una Island. Thus, the list of place names is quite possibly not the complete sample, but it is reasonably representative of the types of Kilivila place names. After discussing the meaning of these terms the paper presents a first attempt to typologically classify and categorize the place names. The paper ends with a critical discussion of the landscape terms and the proposed typology for place names.
  • Senft, G. (Ed.). (2008). Serial verb constructions in Austronesian and Papuan languages. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics Publishers.

    Abstract

    This volume of new work explores the nature of verb serialisation in a range of languages from the Pacific region – both Austronesian and non-Austronesian. Serial verbs can be described linguistically as a sequence of verbs which behave as a single complex predicate. A particular focus of this book is the detailed examination given by most authors to the relationship of such uniclausal linguistic structures with the real world notion of eventhood. The book also makes a valuable addition to the description and analysis of serial verb constructions from the Pacific, a region which has generally been under-represented in cross-linguistic discussions of verb serialisation.
  • Senft, G. (Ed.). (2008). Systems of nominal classification [2nd ed.] (2). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Abstract

    This book addresses the fundamental linguistic question of how the perceived world is expressed through systems of nominal classification that are grammatically encoded in various languages. A team of leading international scholars reviews the whole spectrum of nominal classification, from gender systems through to numeral classifiers, providing cutting-edge theoretical interpretations and empirical case studies based on a wide range of languages. The volume presents ideas about the problems of classification, advances theory by proposing typological categories and clarifies the interface between anthropological and grammatical work. Focusing on systems that have a conceptual-semantic basis, the contributors reflect and represent approaches in nominal classification research. This invaluable reference work will appeal to linguists, anthropologists and psychologists alike, as well as specialists in languages as diverse as Australian, Amazonian, Mayan and Japanese.
  • Senft, G. (2008). The case: The Trobriand Islanders vs H.P. Grice: Kilivila and the Gricean maxims of quality and manner. Anthropos, 103, 139-147.

    Abstract

    The Gricean maxim of Quality “Try to make your contribution one that is true” and his maxim of Manner “Be perspicuous” are not observed in Kilivila, the Austronesian language of the Trobriand Islanders of Papua New Guinea. Speakers of Kilivila metalinguistically differentiate registers of their language. One of these varieties is called biga sopa. This label can be glossed as “joking or lying speech, indirect speech, speech which is not vouched for.” The biga sopa constitutes the default register of Trobriand discourse. This article describes the concept of sopa, presents its features, and discusses and illustrates its functions and use within Trobriand society. The article ends with a discussion of the relevance of Gricean maxims for the research of everyday verbal interaction in Kilivila and a general criticism of these maxims, especially from an anthropological linguistic perspective. [Trobriand Islanders, Gricean maxims, varieties of Kilivila, Kilivila sopa, un-plain speaking]
  • Senft, G. (2008). The teaching of Tokunupei. In J. Kommers, & E. Venbrux (Eds.), Cultural styles of knowledge transmission: Essays in honour of Ad Borsboom (pp. 139-144). Amsterdam: Aksant.

    Abstract

    The paper describes how the documentation of a popular song of the adolescents of Tauwema in 1982 lead to the collection of the myth of Imdeduya and Yolina, one of the most important myths of the Trobriand Islands. When I returned to my fieldsite in 1989 Tokunupei, one of my best consultants in Tauwema, remembered my interest in the myth and provided me with further information on this topic. Tokunupei's teachings open up an important access to Trobriand eschatology.
  • Senft, G. (2008). Zur Bedeutung der Sprache für die Feldforschung. In B. Beer (Ed.), Methoden und Techniken der Feldforschung (pp. 103-118). Berlin: Reimer.

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